Washington State Legislative Process 101
Legislative Session Basics
Washington has 49 legislative districts, each with two representatives and one senator. Terms are two years and four years, respectively.
Each legislative cycle is two years long. The regular session begins on the second Monday in January. In odd-numbered years, such as 2021, the session is 105 days. In even-numbered years, such as 2022, it is 60 days. Extraordinary (or special) sessions can be called by the Governor to address specific issues, usually the budget. Each special session is limited to 30 days. Bills introduced in an odd-numbered year carry over to the even-numbered year and can be reintroduced at their last place in the process.
All bills must pass out of their committee of origin and the Rules Committee to make it to the floor. Bills then repeat this process in the opposite house (From the Senate to the House of Representatives or vice versa). Bills can be stopped at any of these locations.
Once a bill reaches the floor of a house, a second reading is when the bill is discussed and amended. The third reading is when the bill is voted on. If amendments make the bills of the two houses out of sync there is a resolution process.
The Governor can sign a bill, veto a bill, or veto a bill in part. The legislature can override the veto. Once the bill is signed or a veto overridden, it becomes a law.
Key 2021 “Cutoff” Dates
Feb. 15: Last day for bills to pass out of committee in the house of origin (except House Fiscal, Senate Ways & Means, and Transportation Committee bills). Anything not passed out is dead until next regular session.
Feb. 22: Last day for bills to pass out of House Fiscal, Senate Ways & Means, and Transportation Committees.
Mar. 9, 5 p.m.: Last day to pass bills out of the house of origin.
Mar. 26: Last day to pass bills out from the opposite house (except House Fiscal, Senate Ways & Means, and Transportation Committee bills).
Apr. 2: Last day to pass House Fiscal, Senate Ways & Means, and Transportation Committee bills out from the opposite house.
Apr. 11: Last day to pass opposite house bills (except initiatives and alternatives to initiatives, budgets and matters necessary to implement budgets, differences between the houses, and matters incident to the interim and closing of the session).
Apr. 25: Last day of the regular session.